Skip to main content

Review: Manga Studio EX4

Manga Studio EX4 is not an animation program. However it is a drawing, illustration and comic creation program that may be of use to the artists among you that want to draw with a professional, digital art package but don't need the photo processing power and cost of something like Photoshop.


If you're coming into animation from a cartooning background, like me, then Manga Studio EX 4 may be right up your alley. Don't stress that it says 'Manga' on the cover, this software can be used to create almost any style of illustration, comic or graphic novel. See the illustration I did on the right as a case in point.

What sets this apart from other art/illustration software is that I would describe it as a 'word processor' for graphic novelists/comic book writers. Not only can you create your art for every page of your book but the software will handle the page layout, right down to headers and footers, and it has special tools to make creating dynamic panel layouts far beyond simply putting every image into a square or rectangular box.

Everything is geared towards publishing your comics either as an online or physical printed publication. It's particularly adept at applying halftones to your image. Something those of you wishing to publish printed works in black and white will really appreciate.

Other dedicated comic book features include fully editable text and speech balloons. A full range of speech balloon styles, all of which you can customize completely to suit your needs.

Personally I bought Manga Studio EX4 as an illustration tool for use with my Wacom Tablet. Plus, as I mentioned, all the dedicated features for drawing cartoons was also a draw card.

Although Manga Studio EX4 does support tablet drawing, including pressure sensitivity, it doesn't appear to support the programmable buttons or control wheel of my tablet in any useful or logical way. For example using the wheel to zoom in and out and to rotate the page (like other illustration software I own does).

Fortunately this problem can be overcome by using the page navigation window which allows you to move around the page quickly using the tablet's pen.

Manga Studio EX4 - The Page Navigation window
on the top right is easy to use.
One nice feature for newer tablet users is the stroke correction box which, if checked, can smooth out those shaky curved lines, often drawn because you haven't quite got the hang of drawing curves with confidence.

I should mention that Manga Studio EX4 is a rastor based drawing program - that is it works with pixels to create your art like most photo processing software. However it also does support vector drawing found in many illustration software tools. Potentially useful if you'll be printing/exporting your art at many different scales. Note that you can't actually export to vector files though, so if you need your art exported as a vector file this isn't the software for you.

If vector art isn't important may even like to consider buying the cheaper version of this software, Manga Studio Debut 4, which has no support for vector drawing at all and is one sixth of the price.

Back to Manga Studio EX4.

I've yet to get through all of the features myself given that I purchased this as an illustration tool and am still learning the software. Some of those features include:
  • Rulers - you can make a ruler out of just about anything and have the lines you draw snap to the ruler.
     
  • 2D Image rendering - take any photographic image and instantly turn it into line art and screen tones for inclusion in your drawings.
     
  • 3D Objects - a library of over 550 3D objects are included which you can import into your drawing position as part of your backgrounds and then turn into line art. You can even import your own 3D objects.
     
  • Filters - included are a whole range of customizeable filters for creating many effects, quite a few specific to cartooning such as adding speed or exclamation lines.
     
  • Color - yes the program can work in full color too.
One thing I will say is that whilst I've been able to learn the basics fairly quickly it's no thanks to the manual and some pretty lame screen grab, annotated tutorials. If you do buy this software go to the tutorials page and skip immediately to the video tutorials by Doug Hill (which begin under the heading 'Manga Studio Debut 4 Tutorials - which you'll need to watch even if you've bought EX4).

The video below is Doug's overview for Debut and EX4. His style is easy to understand and you'll learn a lot very quickly.



There's probably a lot I've missed but overall I'm enjoying using the program for sketching and drawing final artwork with. Its fast and feels natural and responsive when used with my Wacom Tablet (despite the issue of not utilizing the tablet's buttons). It's the closest software I've found to making tablet drawing feel like pencil and paper.

I'd certainly give it my recommendation, especially if cartoons, comics and illustration are your thing.

The circular background motif is one of the
many included materials.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Featured Animator: Christian Haynes - 'Zack In Time' An Original, Independent, Animated Series on the Rise

Christian Haynes - Zack In Time.  If you've ever wanted to create an animated TV series staring your own original characters and stories then Los Angeles based writer, director, and animator, Christian Haynes is taking those next steps of putting together a team, developing a pitch/trailer for their series, Zack In Time. Featuring professional studio quality animation, they hope the show will get picked up by an animation studio for an official series. The path he and his team are taking is one you could easily follow as they deal with real life commitments, and building a following on Instagram and Tik-Tok showcasing their work behind the scenes. TET: Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, and why you started animating? My name is Christian Haynes and I've loved animation ever since I was a kid. I would constantly be drawing cartoon characters from TV shows and movies and making my own little homemade comic strips.  As I got older, I became a lot more interested in st

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Create 2D Animated Characters with 3D Character Creator Tools and Artistic Filters

3D CC3 TET Character, based on my Oppa Doll Avatar, used as the base for a 2D CA4 character. One of my favorite things to do is to create characters with any type of Avatar/Character creator app. In fact the first test I usually try with these tools is, can I make an avatar of me (or at least my The Extraordinary Tourist persona). Previously I've used 2D character creators like Oppa Doll as a source of artwork for some characters I've made for Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 4 animation studio but 2D character creators are limited to... well 2D. 3D Character Creators While you may think 3D character creators have no place in creating characters for 2D animation there are quite a number of advantages including: No drawing skills required. Render characters in any style. Use an art filter or even hand trace into line art. Need to animate the character in a specific pose or angle? Render out an image of the character in the required angle and animate it in 2D. Quicker to crea

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap

Creating a G3-360 Head From a Single Photo in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator

Source Photo from Generated Photos . Ever since Reallusion introduced the G3-360 Character Head into Cartoon Animator 4 I've wanted to see if their 360 Head Creator tool could be used to create an animated head using a photo. Part of the reason I've never given this a shot, until now, is that I just assumed it would be difficult, and require a lot of photo editing to blend out the sprite edges. It turns out, creating a photographic G3-360 head is not that much more difficult than creating a cartoon head, and can be done using a single photographic image using my own G3-360 head rigging system . While this article isn't intended to be a full tutorial, I'll run through the basic steps of how I achieved my photographic G3-360 head, shown in the comparison below, of a Cartoon Animator Morph-based head on the left, and my G3-360 head on the right. Pros and Cons Cartoon Animator's morph-based head system is ideal for animating photographic faces. It uses a semi 3D wire me

The Christmas Animation Rush - Five Apps to Create Your Last Minute Animated Holiday Messages

Merry Christmas from Animation and Video Life.  It's the most wonderful time of the year... well not yet. The Nightmare Before Christmas is not just the animated Tim Burton movie, it's also the nightmare of trying to make your own animated holiday messages in the week before Christmas. Animation takes time. Why didn't you start those in November?! If this sounds like your nightmare, here are five free or low(ish) cost apps to help you back to sharing the joy of the season with animation, so it truly will be the most wonderful time of the year. Cartoon Animator 4 (or iClone7 ) Reallusion Marketplace search 'Christmas'. If you're already a power user (or even know your way around it a little bit) you'll know CA4 is one of the fastest ways to make completely custom animations. The Reallusion Marketplace has a bunch of Christmas content you can utilize, just don't be too ambitious. Drop in a background, throw in a Santa character, record a short message f

How to Create Caricature Faces From Photos Using Krita - Tutorial by TET

I was looking around online for an app that can 'cartoonify' a photo of a person, kind of hoping for a 'one click' solution. There are a few out there but none worth highlighting. Then I came across a video tutorial by Pixivu for Cartoonifying faces in Photoshop and wondered if I could do something similar in the free, open source drawing app, Krita ? While Krita isn't quite as elegant as Photoshop it does have some comparable features that make it very easy to create cartoon caricature faces from photos that you could use as illustrations or in your animations. They're particularly useful for using as Morph Based character heads in Cartoon Animator 4 (as shown below). Example Caricature Faces use as morph character heads in Cartoon Animator 4. While the actual steps to create heads like those shown above (and, yes, that character on the right is based on a photo of me that I snapped on my webcam) is not something you're just going to stumble across yourse